Today ‘giving away’ remains a traditional part of the wedding service for many, although the way it happens can vary.
Centuries ago daughters were thought of as their father’s property and giving her away at her marriage ceremony was a moment when ownership of her was transferred to the groom. The father would walk into church with his daughter and give her away at the altar. Nowadays, it’s simply a wedding tradition and the bride can make decisions about if and how it happens.
Walking down the aisle
Today, the bride can enter church in the way she feels most comfortable and relaxed – there are no legal requirements. She can walk down the aisle with one or two people, it can be her father or someone else like her brother or her son, another relative or a friend, or she can enter by herself. The person or persons who accompany her to the front then move to their seats when the groom steps out and stands next to the bride.
Options for ‘giving away’
Just before the couple exchange vows, the contemporary wedding service includes some optional words that allow both sets of parents to affirm that they are happy that the two getting married are making a good decision:
“Do you the parents of x and x entrust them to one another as they come to be married?”
This form of wording allows parents to take part whatever the current complexities of relationships might be and also reflects the realities of a relationship built on equality, trust and choice. Parents usually stand wherever they are to say these words.
There is also the option to include a traditional ‘giving away’ ceremony. Immediately before the exchange of vows the vicar may ask:
“Who brings this woman to be married to this man?”
The bride’s father (or mother, or another member of the family or a friend representing the family), gives the bride’s right hand to the vicar who puts it into the bridegroom’s right hand.
If the couple choose to include any of these options in their ceremony, it can all be practised at the rehearsal.